Essay: Web usability – definition, aspects and benefits

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  • Web usability - definition, aspects and benefits
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Introduction:(Kripintiris, 2008)
The expansion of the internet has seen tremendous acceleration during the past two decades. According to the Internet World Statistics, 1.3 billion people worldwide use the internet, as of December2007. The wed has been one of the primary reasons for the internet’s expansion. Currently it is the protagonist in terms of providing any kind of information. While the web used to be a complementary asset for companies, institutions, organisations, and other parties it has been transformed to being their vital component.
In the late 1990s the massive usage of the Web had made the design of websites a complicated process. Due to the need for effective flow of information, website design started requiring the collaborative work of scientists, designers and artists across disciplines. More effort has been put into Web Design since it was no longer sufficient to have web sites unless it was usable to the audience.
What is usability?(Brinck et al., 2002)(Selim, 2012)
Usability is defined as the degree to which people can perform a set of required tasks. It is a product of several, sometimes conflicting design goals:

  • Functionally correct: The primary criterion for usability is that the system correctly performs the functions that the user needs. Software that does not allow users to perform their tasks is not usable.
  • Efficient to use: Efficiency can be a measure of the time or actions required to perform a task. In general, procedures that are faster tend to be more efficient.
  • Easy to learn: Ease of learning determines how quickly new users can learn to accurately perform a task procedure. In general, the fewer steps a procedure contains the easier it is to learn.
  • Easy to remember: The degree to which a system taxes human memory determines how easy it is for users to remember. Systems that compel users to paste memory aids on their display screen are not easy to remember.

Usability is the study of the ease with which people can employ a particular tool or other human-made object in order to achieve a particular goal.
Web usability is more specific to web sites design usefulness and easiness, to enhance the simplicity and clarity of them for the web surfers or visitors. Visitors like to interact with web sites immediately and do not appreciate searching for web help pages on how to use these websites.
Problems with Web Usability

  • Human perception problems: Perception issues arise when pages are designed according to how the underlying information is physically stored (e.g., the database), rather than how the information can best meet the needs of the user. This strategy can make page delivery and maintenance efficient but it can make the user’s task slow and error prone. Other perceptual problems can arise when artistic style is considered before usability.
  • Navigation: This is among the biggest frustration for web users. Three common questions users ask themselves when navigating the web are, where am I now? How do I get where I want to go? And where does this go? To find a navigation path users must predict what will happen if a particular link is pressed and determine whether it takes them closer to their goal. Navigation design issues include whether there is a logical architecture to the information in a site, whether there are sufficient indicators to give the user’s current location, and whether the language and the organisation of the navigation system match the user’s expectations and needs for the task.
  • Human memory: There are three human memory issues to consider when designing for the web first. First, if too many items must be remembered, it is likely that something will be forgotten. Second, the longer the time frame that items must be remembered, the more likely they are to be forgotten. Third, the greater the similarity among the remembered items, the more likely they are to be confused with one another. Web sites that require users to remember items from one page to the next are likely to cause problems.
  • Database integration: Databases can create severe usability problems. A common problem is that the information that the user sees gets out of sync with the information in the serving database i.e. what the users sees is not what is contained in the database. Another problem involves the caching system in web browsers with users often forgetting to reload cached web sites when requested by the site.

Users need to be considered early and often. Usability needs to be part of every step of the design process. One approach is pervasive usability, integrating usability into everything we do. Usability should not be an add-on but that everyday processes should be modified to be user- centered.
Benefits of Web Usability:
It saves web visitors loyalty. By making the web site user and reader friendly with clear navigation and structured content this will encourage web visitors’ revisit.
Increasing web sites revenue and improving the return of investment. Web usability achieves this by casing the way web visitors of commercial web sites find the items they want to buy, by offering recommended products and by increasing the percentage the web site visitors who would complete their purchases.
Enhancing the web sites ranking on search engines. This can be achieved by advertising the web site information in the right way, and optimising web site data for search engines, by making the site search engine friendly, to help to get the right user, by anticipating search engines behaviours and search engines user’s behaviour.
(Nielsen and Pernice, 2010)(Nielsen, 2000)
References:
1. Brinck, T., Gergle, D., Wood, S.D., 2002. Designing Web Sites that Work: Usability for the Web. Morgan Kaufmann.
2. Kripintiris, K.E., 2008. Web Aesthetics and Usability: An Empirical Evaluation of White Space. ProQuest.
3. Nielsen, J., 2000. Designing web usability. New Riders.
4. Nielsen, J., Pernice, K., 2010. Eyetracking Web Usability. New Riders.
5. Selim, S., 2012. Usability – The key for success or failure of web projects. GRIN Verlag.

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